The Punisher – Season 1 Overall Review

Punisher S1

The Punisher is a return to form for the MCU’s Netflix division, and one of the best shows I’ve watched all year. It’s uncompromisingly violent, sure, but it also tells a great story, with several characters intertwined in a big conspiracy that gets out of hand. Good plot twists, set pieces and most importantly, great actors/actresses mean this is highly recommended by me, personally. Let’s take a final and overall look at what I hope is the first of many seasons…

Synopsis:

Former Force Recon officer Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as “the Punisher” after exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family, uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Punisher S1 2

Ah, the good old (terrible, terrible) days!

Frank Castle / The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) – The Punisher has finished his goal and killed all the cartel members even slightly responsible for the death of his family. Now Frank Castle has started to live a normal life again… well, a life again… well, spends his time slamming a sledgehammer against a wall and then sleeps. Either way, he remains ignorant to the truth behind his family tragedy…

David Lieberman / Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) – Micro had found some top-level cover-up awfulness from his job as a data analyst and decided to make it known. He was soon found out and seemingly killed, leaving his wife and two children to morn. He lives as a top-class hacker, but wants nothing more than revenge against those who did this to him and to be reunited with his family. Luckily he knows someone else who has had trouble with the same people, if only he could find him…

Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) – A Force Recon partner and friend of Frank Castle, Billy Russo got out of the army before it crushed him, and eventually started a private military corporation named Anvil. There’s a good “is he good or evil” thing going on with his presentation, if only I wasn’t familiar with the comics…

Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) – Dinah has been looking into the death of her friend from Afghanistan for sometime now, and even though she knows she has been transferred away from her post there in order to stop her investigation, she will not give up until she finds out the names of the conspirators…

William Rawlins (Paul Schulze) – A high-ranking CIA man who is at the top of this conspiracy that has enveloped so many people’s lives.

Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) – A friend of Frank’s who lost part of his left leg in combat. He now holds meetings for ex-soldiers who are trying to come to terms with life outside of the force. He is also one of the few who know Frank Castle is still alive…

Lewis Wilson (Daniel Webber) – A young former soldier who is seriously mentally effected by his experiences there. He dangles on a fine line as to which way his mind is going to snap…

Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) – An old acquaintance of Frank’s (as well as other people!) who works for the New York Bulletin. She is among the only people to ever see the tragic side of Castle, and genuinely wants to help him…

Plus more!

The Good:

Punisher S1 3

Perfectly normal behavour…

Firstly the lead duo of Frank Castle and David Lieberman is great. Lieberman, or Micro, is believed to be dead and he knows the only way out of this situation is to get Frank Castle (who he now finds out is alive) to assist him in exposing the shadowy people behind an off-the-books assassination program that ended in the death of an innocent, an incident that Frank was involved in and that David had leaked. When they first meet Castle is less that friendly towards him, and eventually starts seeing his wife and two kids, knowing full well that Micro watches them on his hidden cameras. But this is where things get complicated as Frank starts to actually enjoy his time with them, reminding him of his family that he lost, so even when the two get on the same page, Castle is still popping round to see his wife blatantly in front of him. They end up in a situation that neither can be happy with, but neither can do without. Plus the fact Micro has a family he can go back too, where as Frank has no such luck, is also an unpleasant string to their shaky bow.

The other people involved in the conspiracy, Billy Russo (Frank’s old, close friend from the war that actually traded in his “pride” to become wealthy by joining up with…), William Rawlins (CIA big-wig who handled the off the books missions in Kandahar, as well as helped smuggle drugs into the US by using dead soldier’s bodies… oh and ordered the hit that ended up killing Frank Castle’s family! That too) and Dinah Madani (a high ranking agent of Homeland Security, her friend was the innocent who was killed by the mission in Kandahar and after seeing Micro’s leaked video, wishes to find whoever was responsible) all criss-cross with each other and it’s brilliant to see it all unfold. Russo’s betrayal and eventual his killing of Madani’s new partner, Rawlins getting increasingly desperate and eventually seeing Russo as a tool to dispose of when he’s done, and of course, Frank’s wish to kill all of them, apart from Madani, obviously.

While all of this is going on you’ve got side characters like Karen Page from Daredevil (where The Punisher himself got his start), who continues to be a good, classic “honest reporter getting herself into trouble” character, as well as her emotional bond with Frank. You also have Curtis, who is an injured army veteran who is trying to cope with normal life (sans a left leg) but holding a group session with other returned soldiers and trying to help them back into society, whilst also trying to help himself get better. Finally, you have Lewis, who is teetering on the edge of post traumatic stress disorder from his time in the army leading him to do bad and extremist things, then eventually he falls off that ledge. No happy redemption, you just see someone fall into a hole he’s unable to escape from, just digging himself further in until he inevitably dies. It’s a hard thing to watch in some scenes, but great TV.

You can look at the individual episode group reviews for detailed breakdowns, but the final two episodes are probably the stand outs, as they have an absolutely brutal torture scene followed by Franks even more brutal killing of Rawlins, then in the last episode the final face off (pun intended?) between Russo and Castle is such a well shot and choreographed fight scene. It all ends of a positive note, with one or two things hanging in the air…

The Bad:

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“You see, I’m just a rich, arrogant man with his own private army being saluted under his own evil-looking banner, I don’t know why you don’t trust me, Curtis…”

The only really bad thing I talked about in the Episode reviews is Episode 10, which I didn’t care for the cutting back-and-forth between the aftermath and during an incident style of story telling, especially as the story was fun and it would have been perfectly fine with a more traditional form of layout.

Overall Thoughts:

Punisher S1 1

Just a flesh wound!

The Punisher is an unforgiving tour-de-force of brutal scenes and a great central plot that keeps weaving the central characters around each other until it all boils over in a very satisfying way. Add some good side-plots and a great cast, and you have a winner. I don’t know if it’s better than Daredevil Season 1 or Jessica Jones Season 1, my two favourite seasons of the Netflix MCU so far, but it’s pretty damn close. I hope there is more to come!

5 Star Watch

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